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US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

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    US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

    Homeland is a show thatís vacillated between gripping and ludicrous on, almost, a season by season basis. Season 6, ending in a couple of weeks, is something of a return to form as the perpetually anguished Clare Danes finds herself back in the USA and thrust into an attempted coup by the counter-terrorism division of the CIA led, lacking only horns and a pointed tail, by F. Murray Abrahams.

    Obviously produced prior to the November election ó the show features a female President in Waiting ó the best thing about it is itís portrayal of mass hacking. Not so much because itís accurate ó I really donít know ó but because Jake Weber does a brilliant job of playing Steve Bannen, or someone very like him. Weberís one of those actors who I always recognise, but can never remember where from. Heís, surprisingly, a Brit whoís done tons of US TV. Turns out that I last saw him was as a semi-regular in Hell on Wheels. Here, as the gleefully ethics-free Brett OíKeefe he runs a factory full of sock-puppets spreading vicious lies across the globe. Not a huge part unfortunately, but exceedingly well played and worth looking out for.

    The Good Fight, is the follow up to the long-running NBC series The Good Wife. In essentials it follows the model of the previous show. It takes place in a large Chicago law firm, and each episode includes a specific case. A handful of regulars, and several occasional characters are included. In some ways the form is as predictable as Haiku - in a Law and Order-ish kind of way. It is however different in one essential, itís no longer on network TV itís on cable, which doesnít just mean we now get four letter words. It was was obvious if you watched the The Good Wife regularly, producer/showrunners Michelle and Robert King had leftish sympathies, now itís almost emblazoned on the credits. Not that itís at all polemic. The show deals with current issues in an entertaining but (I think) legally accurate way. This week it was how does Google (a pseudonym used obv) ban alt-right commentary without contravening First Amendment rights.

    Another good thing about The Good Fight, is that, unlike Homeland, each episode feels as if it was made yesterday. For example the consequences of Trump, stated or implied, appear in every single episode. This often makes it seem like an extension of conversations that take place here or other articulate forums. No bad thing at all.

    #2
    US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

    I'm breaking your rules in the first reply - it's not made in the time of Trump, and it's not on cable - but I've been binge-watching The Americans over the last month, and am halfway through season 4 and part of the reason it's so compelling is because of what we know has been going on recently with Russian interference in US affairs. Trump appears to have made it more relevant than it used to be, as just an entertaining period piece.

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      #3
      US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

      I don't think it breaks the rules. Almost any recent politically based US drama, is going to be filtered through Trumpism, whatever period it's set in. The new season of The Americans is about three episodes in. A fair amount of it takes place in a convincing looking Moscow. I don't want to give away too much but there was one particular brief scene last week that was extremely poignant.

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        #4
        US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

        I am on Season 3 of rewatching The West Wing and not quite past Bartlet's re-election, but IIRC the Republicans behave in exactly the same manner as they did in the last year of Obama. Of course, in the fantasy world of TWW, the republicans never win!

        However, one thing that does strike me, is how completely uncooperative the two factions are, so even in drama, it has been noted almost 20 years ago.

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          #5
          US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

          Isn't Homeland a bunch of Islamophobic racist horseshit? I've never seen it, but that;s the impression one gets from reading articles about it. If so obviously it is very much of a Trumpian era.

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            #6
            US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

            No I don't think that's entirely fair. In the current series for instance, the main victim/scapegoat is a young Islamic American who's set-up by the CIA's black ops counter-terrorist squad. In previous years Arabs have been both good guys and bad guys. I haven't been keeping score but I'd say, on the whole it's been pretty even handed. Particularly since the first couple of seasons.

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              #7
              US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

              I haven't watched Homeland since they killed off David Harewood, and Danes and Lewis ran off to Canada (second series?). So I can't judge anything they've done since.

              But in that first series, there was as effective a portrayal as TV has shown, of how you become a terrorist (softened, of course, by the fact that it was "one of us", Damien Lewis, being so affected). Man cares for child, death falls from sky, child killed, man distraught, wants justice/revenge. As happens somewhere, most days of the week.

              A more convincing explanation than "they are Other, and it's what they do". So at least in that instance, decidedly non-Islamophobic.

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                #8
                US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                I never got on with Homeland even when it was supposed to be good. I have liked what I've seen of the Americans so far a lot, but it's only a handful of episodes.

                Veep isn't technically a drama, but it's going to be pretty essential viewing in the age of Trump, I'd have thought, even without Armando's hand on the tiller.

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                  #9
                  US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                  I was binge watching Veep until the election then, literally overnight, it just seemed irrelevant. Post-Trump SNL has enjoyed a major revival, but it's sketch comedy and the orange utan is an easy target. It'll be interesting to see how Veep handles the scarily dark shadows inside the current administration.

                  Homeland has always been a curate's egg. Only the first season was dramatically tight. I mentioned it because it's the first established series I've seen to build an entire season around perceived dangers in the present political landscape.

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                    #10
                    US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                    I find it's just best to escape. I'm only watching Legion, The Expanse, and The Magicians.

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                      #11
                      US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                      Yeah, I did that for awhile. But TV is an important tool, and the (few) positive straws in the wind are worth supporting. I feel that way The Good Fight dealt with the 4Chan alt-right crowd, as mentioned, was a decent kick at the can.

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                        #12
                        US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                        I've always viewed Homeland as 24 with autism, but then again it's a view informed by ignorance, like most of my views.

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                          #13
                          US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                          I was thinking about 24 in regards to this thread, given that it's just had another revival. I reckon that the Trump-era has killed/is about to kill a couple of threads in US Network drama. (Drama being a generous term).

                          I suspect the Fear Of Terrorism stuff like 24 is basically dead. Nobody wants to be Trumpism's Id, and pretty much all these shows are based around Scary Brown People. They have the odd episode with a Scary White Loner, to pretend to be balanced, but if you remove the Brown People and the shows are dead.

                          The other stuff which is going to be gone are the various shows that try and pretend there's a "deep secret", the ones that came after Lost but were a bit more Police-y and Action-y, shows like Blindspot and Blacklist. Nobody wants to watch shows which play with a giant corrupt secret any more, I don't think. Not when it feels like there already are a bunch of those in the real government.

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                            #14
                            US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                            Yeah. there's a theory that network TV is Trump's America. It's programming these days, and probably more so in the near future, is in the business of consoling viewers. For example CBS's big dramas are stuff like Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, Life in Pieces, Madam Secretary, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, NCIS: Whereverthefuck. The heroes are white (guys, more often than not), the cops are overworked ó sometimes bend the rules ó but are basically on the 'right side' and 'get the job done.' Cable is where life is far more complicated, challenging and multi-coloured. There is of course also a class/economic aspect to this. Cable subscriptions cost money. The differences are stark when comparing an episode of The Good Fight with it's network predecessor The Good Wife. The latter was fairly radical, in a West Wing-ish type of way, but there's no way NBC would have green-lit the new show.The central premise alone, of having a large successful law-firm run entirely by black lawyers, would have had them running a mile.

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                              #15
                              US Cable Drama in a Time of Trump

                              Network TV audiences famously skew older too, which aligns with the Trump demographic.

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                                #16
                                On Veep, you could see Jonah as the type that was a laughing stock in 2011-2012 but is now actually in the White House, doing briefings and handling the Internet. But Selina Meyer and the Daughter-who-seems-to-be-modelled-on-Chelsea Clinton* are part of the triangulating Dem culture that lost in November. Infact Ianucci might be seen as chronicling the last days of triangulation.

                                Homeland (spoiler!) - I thought the plot F. Murray Abraham was handed as this particular version of Dar Adal was a bit too one-dimensional Ming The Merciless to be convincing; like a stereotype was being imposed on an actor and character that had been selected originally for a different role entirely as the enforcer, fixer and problem-solver, not the neocon** conspiracist.

                                Notes:

                                *whom I have only just realized is played by Kiefer Sutherland's daughter: thus famous person's daughter parodies famous person's daughter.

                                **note: neocon not Trumpbot. I think Dar Adal would be trying to get Trump out almost as much as he'd want to scupper a female Pres who is notably to the left of HRC in this series. Infact Dar Adal would prefer HRC, who'd be sane and malleable.

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                                  #17
                                  Never mind drama...I can't wait to see if the new Curb Your Enthusiasm goes into politics in any of the new episodes.

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                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Ginger Yellow View Post
                                    Network TV audiences famously skew older too, which aligns with the Trump demographic.
                                    CBS certainly does.

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                                      #19
                                      Blue Bloods is an interesting case of whitewashing the NYPD and having some stereotypical black and Latino characters but also sometimes including Latino cops and throwing in liberal platitudes. An updated Starsky and Hutch?

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                                        #20
                                        Bit of an update as both The Good Fight and Homeland have reached a constitutional crisis.

                                        In the latter the president (Elizabeth Marvel) is about to be replaced as POTUS via the twenty-fifth amendment, or it looks that way. There's a parallel plot dealing with Russian meddling in US government (surprise!) but it's not nearly as interesting. Neither is Carrie's latest breakdown (yawn.) However Beau Bridges plays the veep and, so far, he's done a good job playing someone caught between a President who's stubborn, volatile, but basically right; and a cabinet composed of career pols who have their fingers in the air trying to detect the latest breeze. Bridges particularly, and Marvel make this season worthwhile as it appears we've seen the last of Jake Weber, after his alt-right/vigilante rebellion failed.

                                        The Good Fight continues to be one of TVs unexpected joys. It often seems as if it's written based on the news that week. The law firm has been asked by the DNC to prepare a presentation on grounds for impeachment after the Dems take Congress in November. The DNC rep is played by Margo Martindale who continues to be one of my favourite actors, she's like a comfy pair of slippers with thumb tacks inside. The internal legal discussions on how to deal with Trump's impeachment are both informative and hilarious. If you can find this show watch it (it's tucked away on the W (for 'Women') Network here.) Don't let the soapiness put you off, it's sharp, witty and right on the button.
                                        Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 16-04-2018, 23:59.

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                                          #21
                                          I absolutely love Homeland, even if it is getting increasingly ludicrous. I always thought it was a bit as Ad Hoc said up there, certainly series 1 to 5 was very GO YEAH CIA USA! But it suddenly went woke in the post-Trump landscape and became even less believable. So unbelievable in fact that it's actually happening in real life. More or less.

                                          I'm sick to death of Carrie. She's so boring. Those episodes she spends sniffling and snuffling and crying are real tough wanks.

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                                            #22
                                            Where did Max's brother get to? He just... disappeared.

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                                              #23
                                              Virgil vanished at the end of of season three, and hasn't been spoken of since... Spooky!

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                                                #24
                                                Putting Carrie anywhere near the White House was a shark jumping moment. Peter was the best thing in it for a couple of seasons and his departure was the end of my incentive to keep watching. Can't give a fuck about Sol or the female Pres who seems to have started out being written on the premise that HRC would beat Trump and since then it's just jumping around on the fly.

                                                Another issue is that from 2001-16 US policy in the Middle East had fairly clear parameters but under Trump it's like nailing jelly to the wall, purely transactional day to day not strategic in any clear sense.

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                                                  #25
                                                  Sol's OK in one-dimensional avuncular sort of way. He and Carrie are the only constants (and executive producers) they're necessary for continuity's sake. I agree the female pres was created with the assumption of a Hillary victory. However that not happening has made for a better show. Much less predictable, with writing that's more spontaneous. You get impression the producers have been forced to think on their feet, rather than by rote. For example the last episode left the audience genuinely not knowing whether the veep had cashed in the prez because he wants the office himself, or whether her anger and paranoia pushed him into the arms of the those who want her out. It's good drama, and also illustrates the intricacies of the twenty-fifth amendment — in case we need to know, like.

                                                  BTW, this is the penultimate season, so we'll only need to watch Carrie twitch and squirm as she goes off her meds once more.
                                                  Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 17-04-2018, 05:09.

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